Sentiero del Viandante: Bellano to Varenna

After establishing my summer in Europe would include a short stay near Lake Como, I immediately searched for hiking guides to the area. It was tough to find information in English about walks or trails on the Eastern side of the lake but I eventually stumbled onto Walking the Italian Lakes (Gillian Price). The book has several maps and details about multiple hikes around Como, including the Sentiero del Viandante (Wanderer’s Trail) and the east “arm.” This walk is part of a millennia old route and follows the side of the Lake Como for about 45 km – a great distance for someone looking for a challenge while not going too far off into nature. The entire route could be done in two days but to really enjoy the lakeside and explore the various side trips, break the Wanderer’s Trail into four or five days.

This week I decided to walk the Bellano to Varrena segment as I am staying just uphill from Bellano.  The track entrance is located off Strada Provinciale 62, the road that heads uphill from the Bellano Train Station, making it easily accessible with public transportation. The narrow entry on the curve of road is marked by orange plaques. Once on the path, markings were generally easy to follow. The segment is just under 10 km with the route weaving through orchards, forest, church yards and even a cemetery. It took me about 90 minutes to complete with very little stopping, though, there are alters and many opportunities to rest along the way.

I chose to do the route on a Sunday, thinking it would be very quiet and I was correct -I didn’t come across any other walkers. Most of the trail is wooded and shaded with a few places to sit down and have a rest. Although not technically challenging, there a are a few steep climbs. Just before descending into Varenna the road takes a few sharp bends with FABULOUS views of Lake Como. Once in Varenna it’s a bit of a labyrinth to get out of the old town but it’s a nice place to get lost and admire the church and squares and history of the village. The nicest part of the day was putting my feet into the cold water after the walk!

Many variations on the Sentiero del Viandante are possible with all the connections to other trails like one to Alpe Giumello (from Bellano) and to Castello do Vezio, or, making up your own detour to visit a village or beach off course. It took me some time to figure it out but bus routes connect Bellano and Varrena to some of the villages higher up the mountains. These higher places have nice views of sunset, Lake Como and take you out of the heat bubble that is down below. Tickets for these buses need to be bought in advance at the local train stations (and you’ll have to speak Italian).

The best view of the lake came at the end.

I’d like to hear what others have to say about hiking near Lake Como. Leave a comment below if you have a favorite trail.

Thank you for reading,

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